NORTH WEST INDIA

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Spectacularly jagged, arid mountains enfold the magical Buddhist ex-kingdom of Ladakh. Picture-perfect gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) dramatically crown rocky outcrops next to fluttering prayer flags and whitewashed stupas, while prayer wheels spun clockwise release merit-making mantras. The trans-Himalayan region of Spiti is another chunk of Tibet marooned within India, a kind of 'mini-Ladakh' with fewer tourists. The scattered villages in this serrated moonscape arrive like mirages while the turquoise-grey ribbon of the Spiti River is your near-constant companion, albeit sometimes way below in precipitous gorges.

 

The walls of dramatic mountains that hem this region in the furthest reaches of India make for an unforgettable landscape, but be aware that road access requires crossing tortuous high passes, which close from around October to May (by Loney Planet).